PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When you think of a city’s downtown, restaurants and retail stores often come to mind. But for one local center city, officials hope you will soon consider it a destination to learn.
Inside the former M&T Bank on South Main Street in Pittston, you won’t find much more than an empty vault amid a gutted interior. But things are about to change at this 10,000 square foot building. Armed with shovels, officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday morning for what will become the Luzerne County Community College M&T Bank Educational Center. “We wanted to find really a venue that’s going to have a combination of credit and credit-free components,” said LCCC President Thomas Leary.
The campus location wouldn’t be possible if not for M&T Bank donating the property in exchange for a $374,000 state tax credit. M&T Bank Northern Pennsylvania Region President Phil Johnson said, “It really allowed us to donate the building, not seek anything in return from the community.” Pittston Redevelopment Authority Vice Chair Mike Lombardo added, “It’s been a project we’ve been working on for almost 20 years and we really see it as a critical piece to the downtown.”
Pittston Redevelopment Authority will pay for the roughly $2 million renovation project. Lease payments from LCCC will help pay off the debt. Sen. John Yudichak (D) Carbon/Luzerne Counties said, “They’ve done a wonderful job. Communities, families coming together and saying we’re going to invest in ourselves.”
Repurposing the vacant building is much more than just an opportunity for education. It’s expected to attract some valuable foot traffic. With roughly 300 or more students expected to enroll at LCCC’s newest campus, restaurants like Callahan’s Cafe & Coffee House believe those future learners will be hungry for more than just knowledge. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a significant boost for not only me but the other restaurants and businesses downtown,” said Michael Callahan who owns Callahan’s.
Once the old bank building is renovated, LCCC hopes to begin offering courses there for the 2018 fall semester.